By Alicia Kelso
Do you remember the scene in "A Christmas Story," when Ralphie finally receives his Orphan Annie Secret Society decoder pin in the mail? He scurries away to a clandestine spot in the house and feverishly works to discover a message he thought was meant solely for him?
That's kinda how I felt when I received Taco Bell's "breakfast phone" in the mail a week ago. Like Ralphie, this (pre-paid Samsung) phone requires me to unearth secret "missions" to achieve a goal.
His effort was a bit of a bust — an ad reminding him to drink Ovaltine.
My effort, however? Well it, too, is an ad (reminding me about Taco Bell's breakfast launch on Thursday), but it's also so much more than that.
The breakfast phones are part of the brand's biggest marketing campaign ever and were created to promote its new morning menu. They were sent to Taco Bell's biggest "influencers" (media and social media fans), and have so far communicated numerous "missions" — or contests — with prizes such as trips, gift cards and brand swag on the line.
It's certainly a prolific campaign. Since receiving the phone, I've received more than 20 missions via text, and about 10 or so voicemails outlining other missions.
All of these missions entail a strong social media tie-in, using the hashtags #wakeuplivemas and #contest. For example, one message said, "On the beach in sunny California, or taste your first Waffle Taco in New York City. Just use #wakeuplivemas #contest and tweet where you want to try Taco Bell's breakfast in the continental United States. Be sure and tell us why. We'll pick a favorite and legit fly you there. For real."
Each time-sensitive mission message ends with "You've got four hours. Get to it."
These sort of missions come at all times of the day and night — my breakfast phone has rung at 4 a.m. ETD.
A big focus of the campaign has been on the Waffle Taco (Taco Bell is giving away Waffle Taco pajamas, pillow cases, hoodies, etc.). The AM Crunchwrap has also been the focal point of many missions, with one contest asking fans why they deserve to win AM Crunchwrap bed sheets.
Here are some of their responses:
- "I deserve to sleep in an AM Cruchwrap bed sheet because i wanna sleep with Taco Bell."
- "I was mocked for my dream of being a crunchwrap Lets see who's laughing when I'm nestled inside crunchwrap bedsheets."
There have also been countdown messages, preparing fans for the official breakfast launch. Today's came through with "1 day, 20 hours, zero minutes and counting."
Some of the contests happen via Instagram, while others happen via Twitter. Taco Bell has also integrated Tumblr and Vine and Facebook and has seemingly thought of everything to saturate its heavy user demographic with information about its new morning daypart.
The lucky fans who received a phone have shared their excitement to the masses ("This is the MOST EXCITING thing EVER! A friggen Breakfast phone! I LOVE YOU @TacoBell!") and have, I assume, left others to wonder what's going on.
And that's where this campaign hits a sweet spot; to find out what, indeed, is going on, the phone-less are just going to have to check out Taco Bell during breakfast starting on Thursday.
Such anticipation, both from those who received phones and those who did not, has conjured up a good brand buzz. And that's just what everyone needs in the morning.
Alicia Kelso is the senior editor of QSRweb.com and PizzaMarketplace.com.
Alicia has been a professional journalist for 15 years. Her work with FastCasual.com, QSRweb.com and PizzaMarketplace.com has been featured in publications around the world, including NPR, Good Morning America, Voice of Russia radio, Consumerist.com and Franchise Asia magazine.